General Description: Blueberries are round, smooth-skinned, small individual fruits with juicy, sweet flesh. Blueberries and huckleberries are native to North America and have been used extensively since Colonial times.
Lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium_) grow only about 1 foot (30 cm) high and thrive in eastern Canada and Maine. These small, intensely flavored blueberries are often marketed as wild blueberries or huckleberries. More common highbush blueberries (_Vaccinium corymbosum) grow up to 5 feet (1.5 m) tall with berries that are large and mild.
Huckleberries (Gaylussacia baccata) and blueberries grow in the same regions and are used in the same ways, but huckleberries are not commercially grown and must be picked in the wild. Blueberries are generally blue and have a large number of tiny soft seeds; huckleberries are generally black or purplish and have 10 larger, hard seeds.
European blueberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) originated in Eurasia. These tiny, dark bluish purple summer berries are similar to small blueberries and are known as whortleberries in North America and bilberries in Europe.
Season: Blueberries are in season locally in spring and summer; due to imports they can be available year-round.
Purchase: Look for firm, large, plump, full-colored blueberries free of moisture with few stems in dry, unstained containers. Blueberries should be a deep, purple-blue to blue-black color with a silver frost. Reddish berries are not ripe, but may be used in cooking.
Avoid: Color is the best indicator of blueberry maturity and flavor, so avoid blueberries that are green. Avoid dull, lifeless, or mushy blueberries or berries with any mold.
Storage: Blueberries store in the refrigerator for 5 or 6 days, as long as they are kept dry.
- Remove the blueberries from their container, spread out onto a shallow tray, and pick out any rotted or unformed berries as well as tiny stems.
- Place the berries in a bowl of water, swish around to remove dirt, then lift out.
- Blot the berries dry with a paper towel.
Serving Suggestions: Use blueberries in fresh fruit tarts, fruit salads, muffins, pies, and jams. Combine washed blueberries with sugar and strained apricot jam or apple jelly, bring to a boil, and cook until thick, about 10 minutes, then cool to room temperature and spread onto a cold cheesecake.
Flavor Affinities: Cinnamon, crème fraîche, ginger, lemon, mace, melons, nutmeg, orange, sour cream, walnuts, yogurt.
from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com